If a person dies without leaving a Last Will & Testament, that person is said to have died intestate. To learn more about who would inherit according to intestacy, read “What Happens if I Die without a Will?” When a person passes away without a will, a person needs to be appointed to marshal the assets of the decedent, pay their liabilities, and distribute the remaining funds to the people who would inherit according to intestacy. That person is called the administrator of the estate. The administrator is a fiduciary and must act in the best interest of the estate.
The person that has the largest interest in the decedent’s estate according to intestacy has priority in becoming the decedent’s administrator. SCPA 1001 lists the order of priority for granting letters of administration. For example, a wife that has a 50% interest in their deceased husband’s estate has a higher priority to become administrator than a child that has a 25% interest in their father’s estate.
Problems arise and litigation can occur when multiple individuals with the same priority are requesting to become administrator of an estate. In this situation, the court will decide as to whom should be appointed as the fiduciary. A person with a higher priority may not be appointed as administrator if there are objection and the proposed administrator may be unfit to serve as administrator.
Daredevil Dan Example:
Daredevil Dan, our crash test dummy, decided to go snowboarding in upstate New York. Unfortunately, Daredevil Dan was going too fast and snowboarded straight off a cliff, and that was the end of Daredevil Dan. Daredevil Dan never made it to Ira K. Miller & Associates and died without a Last Will & Testament. Daredevil Dan died leaving a wife and three children. According to SCPA 1001 Daredevil Dan’s wife would have priority to act as administrator. If Daredevil Dan’s wife predeceased him, his three children would have equal priority to becoming the administrator of his estate.